Engaging Learners with VR

Engaging Learners with VR

The virtual reality (VR) market is a $15 billion hardware market. It is projected to reach $50 billion by 2020, according to Goldman Sachs.

VR technology today divides into two types: rotational and positional. In rotational VR, you are seated or standing and look around a 360 environment, but cannot move within it. There is one point of view: looking at things around you. Samsung Gear, Google Daydream and Google Cardboard are rotational VR. The typical VR experience with Google Cardboard ranges from 5 to 20 minutes.

The second type is positional VR. This environment lets you move around within the VR space. It can be composed of mixed reality, using a video layer over a VR environment. A mixed reality environment lets people approximate what a user is seeing within a VR application in a 2D view. Positional VR can scale to many users in a single shared space.


Vive is a positional VR solution. You can be seated, standing or moving within a room. You can literally stand in the center of the content (think “Star Trek” holodeck experience.) Kids to grandparents use Vive with ease because it’s natural to interact within the environment. Given the immersion, Vive experiences tend to last longer — an hour plus for users without fatigue.

To use Vive, you need a PC and headgear. There are 100,000s of Vive users globally and we are shipping about 1,000 units per day, to customers.

PC prices to run VR have dropped considerably in the past year. Nine months ago, there were no PCs on the market to support Vive. Now there are nine models at a much lower price point.

VR applications run the gamut from games and entertainment to enterprise uses, especially medical. We see examples of automotive VR for design of cars. Designers can work in VR collaboratively in the same space. This type of application can reduce the time and cost of product design.

VR applications like test-driving a car, viewing real estate, or visiting a travel destination are all in development or deployed today. The medical field has recently created a surgical theater where an MRI of a brain can be displayed in space, and doctors can walk around the brain in VR. The National Park services also launched a series on 360-degree VR experiences and 2-D video on Facebook.


You are probably sitting on digital content you can use for VR. It is a matter of reorganizing it into a 360 experience to allow you to move around. IKEA created a VR kitchen and let users select colors and layouts before buying. This brought buyer’s remorse to zero.

When developing VR, we recommend building cross platform as much as possible. Instead of scaling up from Cardboard, you should develop for full functionality, then scale down to the user’s platform.


Vive has VR learning experiences, like the Apollo 11 VR Experience. The developers, Immersive VR Education LTD, created an environment of 1960s-style living room with a TV showing JFK’s speech about going into space. The user is then transported into a space capsule sitting next to Buzz Aldrin and landing on the moon. My young son used it and shared with me what he learned; historical quotes and his successful moon landing. Four weeks later, I asked my son about the moon landing, and he could still recall with great details his experience.

We have A/B tests that measured VR versus reading of material. It found VR tested higher in retention one day and 90 days later versus readers alone. VR is a game changer in retentions.

It’s these experiences that are changing how we interact with digital content and engaging people. Vive users typically spend 45 minutes to an hour in the VR experience versus 10 minutes for Cardboard. Now, that’s an engaging experience.

– By Daniel O’Brien, Vice President, VR at HTC.

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